Re­lo­a­ding for dan­ge­rous ga­me – a dif­fe­rent pro­po­si­ti­on

The do’s and don’ts w­hen lo­a­ding am­mu­ni­ti­on for dan­ge­rous ga­me hun­ting

SA Jagter Hunter - - INHOUD - Jo­han van Wyk

I­may as well ad­mit it: hun­ting dan­ge­rous ga­me is one of the most ex­ci­ting pas­ti­mes any hun­ter can in­dul­ge in. Few t­hings in li­fe com­pa­re to the fee­ling that g­oes through one’s bo­nes w­hen the big tracks cros­sing the ro­ad are first sig­h­ted and the bolt is clo­sed on a big car­trid­ge af­ter a nod from your pro­fes­si­o­nal hun­ter. As you shoul­der your rifle and fol­low the me­an­de­ring tracks in­to the mo­pa­ne thic­ket you sud­den­ly be­co­me a­wa­re of a s­lig­ht me­tal­lic af­ter­tas­te in your mouth – the rifle that felt so he­a­vy and com­for­ting on the shoot­ing ran­ge back ho­me sud­den­ly feels com­ple­te­ly in­a­de­qua­te. Hun­ting dan­ge­rous ga­me ma­kes one hap­py to be a­li­ve.


Ho­we­ver, pri­or to get­ting off the Land Crui­ser and car­rying a big rifle o­ver your shoul­der, a num­ber of t­hings ha­ve to hap­pen first to en­s­u­re that your lon­gan­ti­ci­pa­ted dre­am hunt will be a success. A­ni­mals such as buf­fa­lo or e­lep­hant are ful­ly ca­pa­ble of in­ju­ring or kil­ling a ca­re­less hun­ter, so his choi­ce of e­quip­ment be­co­mes very im­por­tant.

To­day’s hun­ter is bles­sed with a far wi­der choi­ce of am­mu­ni­ti­on and pre­mi­um-qua­li­ty bul­lets than e­ver be­fo­re. Hig­hqua­li­ty fac­to­ry-lo­a­ded am­mu­ni­ti­on, suit­a­ble for thick-skin­ned dan­ge­rous ga­me is a­vai­la­ble from va­ri­ous ma­nu­fac­tu­rers such as Fe­de­ral, Nor­ma and ot­hers and is ge­ne­ral­ly lo­a­ded with bul­lets that y­e­ste­ry­e­ar’s hun­ters such as JA Hun­ter and Jim Sut­her­land ne­ver e­ven dre­amt a­bout. In ad­di­ti­on, to­day’s fac­to­ry-lo­a­ded am­mu­ni­ti­on is ge­ne­ral­ly very re­li­a­ble, accu­ra­te and is de­sig­ned to de­li­ver op­ti­mum ter­mi­nal per­for­man­ce.

For South A­fri­cans, ho­we­ver, the fly in the oint­ment is that fac­to­ry-lo­a­ded am­mu­ni­ti­on for the big-bo­res are not al­ways free­ly a­vai­la­ble and the am­mu­ni­ti­on is al­most al­ways pro­hi­bi­ti­ve­ly ex­pen­si­ve. Un­for­tu­na­te­ly, due to the rand’s fluc­tu­a­ting ex­chan­ge ra­te and ot­her fac­tors such as ex­ces­si­ve dif­fi­cul­ties in im­por­ting the stuff in the first pla­ce, this si­tu­a­ti­on is not li­ke­ly to chan­ge a­ny­ti­me soon, so re­lo­a­ding is the­re­fo­re the most vi­a­ble op­ti­on for lo­cals.

W­hen pre­pa­ring for a dan­ge­rous ga­me hunt I al­ways opt for the be­st com­po­nents a­vai­la­ble to en­s­u­re success. One of the pre­re­qui­si­tes of a bul­let for dan­ge­rous ga­me is the a­bi­li­ty to pe­ne­tra­te dee­ply and in a straig­ht li­ne. For e­lep­hant, on­ly so­lid, non-ex­pan­ding bul­lets should be u­sed. For­tu­na­te­ly a good num­ber of such bul­lets are a­vai­la­ble – the Wood­leigh FMJ (de­sig­ned al­ong the sa­me li­nes as the vin­ta­ge Kyn­och so­lids but with the ad­di­ti­on of a thick steel jac­ket to a­void de­for­ma­ti­on), Bar­nes Su­per So­lid, North Fork, as well as the South A­fri­can-de­sig­ned and ma­nu­fac­tu­red D­zom­bo, to na­me a few. All of the­se, as well as a num­ber of

bul­lets by ot­her ma­nu­fac­tu­rers will do a fi­ne job and they are all a­vai­la­ble in com­po­nent form.

To­day’s hun­ter is e­ven mo­re spoi­lt for choi­ce w­hen it co­mes to ex­pan­ding bul­lets that are suit­a­ble for buf­fa­lo. A few de­ca­des ago so­lid bul­lets we­re re­gar­ded as the on­ly re­al­ly vi­a­ble choi­ce for thick-skin­ned dan­ge­rous ga­me and hun­ters we­re rou­ti­ne­ly ad­vi­sed to lo­ad with so­lids on­ly, in spi­te of the po­ten­ti­al risk of o­ver-pe­ne­tra­ti­on. On bro­ad­s­i­de shots, ma­ny of to­day’s ex­pan­ding bul­lets work to per­fecti­on on buf­fa­lo. They will pe­ne­tra­te deep e­nough (through both shoul­ders) and hold to­get­her. Cor­rect bul­let choi­ce e­ven turns the re­la­ti­ve­ly mild 9.3x62 in­to a very good buf­fa­lo ca­li­b­re.

In terms of pre­mi­um-qua­li­ty ex­pan­ding bul­lets the­re are a my­ri­ad of good can­di­da­tes. The in­ter­net and prin­ted me­dia al­so pro­vi­de aut­ho­ri­ta­ti­ve sour­ces for re­se­arch, ma­king it e­a­sy to choo­se the rig­ht bul­let and e­quip­ment. Se­lect a bul­let that is accu­ra­te out of your rifle, will pe­ne­tra­te in a straig­ht li­ne, hold to­get­her and re­tain as much weig­ht as pos­si­ble af­ter ex­pan­si­on. T­hen put in e­nough ran­ge ti­me – the most im­por­tant as- pect of dan­ge­rous ga­me hun­ting is to shoot straig­ht w­hen the mo­ment of truth ar­ri­ves.

A re­la­ti­ve­ly new bul­let de­sign is the so-cal­led Cup-No­se so­lid, in­tro­du­ced by the US bul­let ma­ker North Fork. The Cu­pNo­se is es­sen­ti­al­ly a mo­no-me­tal so­lid with a s­hort no­se secti­on that ex­pands to roughly just o­ver ca­li­b­re di­a­me­ter. I ha­ven’t u­sed them my­self but a friend ga­ve me a few in .416 ca­li­b­re and I do ad­mit of being cu­ri­ous a­bout them. My friend has u­sed them in va­ri­ous ca­li­bres on both e­lep­hant and buf­fa­lo and he claims they de­li­ver tre­men­dous straig­ht­li­ne pe­ne­tra­ti­on cou­pled with let­hal ter­mi­nal per­for­man­ce.

A­not­her fai­r­ly re­cent de­ve­lop­ment is the Wood­leigh hyd­ro­sta­ti­cal­ly sta­bi­li­sed bul­let, de­sig­ned by Aus­tra­li­an me­tal­lur­gist John Ma­roz­zi and mar­ke­ted by Wood­leigh. It is a wei­rd-look­ing bul­let with a cups­ha­ped hol­low at the front end (see pic­tu­re). A tho­rough ex­pla­na­ti­on of ex­act­ly how the “hyd­ro” bul­let works would re­qui­re a se­pa­ra­te ar­ti­cle, but suf­fi­ce to say that they pe­ne­tra­te li­ke cra­zy, le­a­ve a wound chan­nel that is con­si­de­ra­bly wi­der than that of a con­ven­ti­o­nal full-me­tal jac­ket so­lid and are sa­fe to use in »

» ol­der rifles with bar­rels ma­de from sof­ter steel. I ha­ve shot a num­ber of a­ni­mals with this bul­let, in­clu­ding a wa­ter buf­fa­lo bull with a vin­ta­ge .500/450 NE dou­ble in Aus­tra­lia’s Nort­hern Ter­ri­to­ries in 2014, and I ha­ve yet to re­co­ver a bul­let.

W­hen doing lo­ad de­ve­lop­ment for so­lid bul­lets I’m ge­ne­ral­ly a litt­le con­ser­va­ti­ve. Sin­ce so­lids are as a ru­le s­lig­ht­ly lon­ger in length than their soft-no­se, ex­pan­ding coun­ter­parts, you need to se­at them dee­per in­to the ca­se (hen­ce they ta­ke up mo­re of the ca­se’s in­ter­nal spa­ce) to ma­ke the lo­a­ded car­trid­ge fit in­to the ma­ga­zi­ne. I the­re­fo­re ma­ke an ef­fort fin­ding ca­ses with s­lig­ht­ly thin­ner ca­se walls to a­void sa­cri­fi­cing po­w­der ca­pa­ci­ty. Due to their con­structi­on, so­lids ge­ne­ral­ly tend to pro­du­ce hig­her cham­ber pres­su­res, so it is pru­dent to start off by u­sing star­ting lo­ads w­hen de­ve­lo­ping lo­ads. Work up slo­w­ly and ca­re­ful­ly whi­le kee­ping an eye o­pen for signs of pres­su­re.

In the .375 H&H, I ha­ve u­sed 75gr S365 pro­pel­lant be­hind 300gr soft-no­se bul­lets for the past ten y­e­ars (and yes, I know it is not in the Som­chem re­lo­a­ding ma­nu­al but S365 is ac­tu­al­ly a fi­ne choi­ce for the .375 H&H and 300gr bul­lets). W­hen lo­a­ded in Win­ches­ter, Re­ming­ton or Nor­ma ca­ses that I use, this lo­ad pro­du­ces just o­ver 2 500fps at the muz­z­le with no signs of ex­ces­si­ve pres­su­re and the po­w­der al­most fills the ca­se which is w­hat you want. W­hen lo­a­ding so­lids, ho­we­ver, I drop the lo­ad by two grains (2gr) to com­pen­sa­te for the Wood­leigh’s lon­ger length and hard steel jac­ket. E­ven with the s­lig­ht­ly re­du­ced lo­ad, muz­z­le velo­ci­ty is a­bout the sa­me and both the so­lid as well as my pre­fer­red ex­pan­ding bul­let of choi­ce, the 300gr S­wift A-Fra­me, shoot to vir­tu­al­ly the sa­me point of im­pact at 100 me­tres. The com­bi­na­ti­on has ser­ved me very well in the field on a num­ber of oc­ca­si­ons.

W­hen pre­pa­ring ca­ses I p­re­fer to full-length si­ze all the am­mu­ni­ti­on I in­tend ta­king al­ong on the hunt. The re­a­son for this is sim­ple: am­mu­ni­ti­on lo­a­ded with full-length-si­zed ca­ses cham­ber e­a­sy and slick and is one less po­ten­ti­al pro­blem to wor­ry a­bout du­ring the hunt. Yes, full-length si­zing les­sens ca­se li­fe, but buying a new ba­tch of brass e­very now and t­hen seems li­ke che­ap in­su­ran­ce a­gainst di­sas­ter. I al­so try to a­void u­sing ca­ses for dan­ge­rous ga­me hunts that ha­ve been si­zed mo­re than on­ce to a­void po­ten­ti­al ca­se-he­ad se­pa­ra­ti­ons.

O­pi­ni­on seems to be di­vi­ded on the sub­ject of crim­ping the ca­ses. I ha­ve ne­ver en­coun­te­red pro­blems with bul­lets being pus­hed in­to ca­ses as a re­sult of the ham­me­ring they re­cei­ved from re­coil whil­st lo­a­ded in the ma­ga­zi­ne. Ho­we­ver, ot­hers ha­ve and I cer­tain­ly ha­ve no ar­gu­ment with a­nyo­ne pre­fer­ring to ap­ply a firm crimp to the ca­se mout­hs of lo­a­ded am­mu­ni­ti­on. In fact, I do so rou­ti­ne­ly my­self in any e­vent, just to be on the sa­fe si­de. I own Lee fac­to­ry-crimp dies for a num­ber of ca­li­bres for just this pur­po­se – they are af­for­da­ble and work as ad­ver­ti­sed.


One of my fa­vou­ri­te pas­ti­mes is ob­ser­ving fel­low com­pe­ti­tors w­hen ta­king part in big-bo­re shoot­ing com­pe­ti­ti­ons. It is so­meti­mes a­mu­sing to watch the an­ti­cs of so­me shoo­t­ers as they at­tempt to lo­ad bad­ly­tu­ned rifles un­der pres­su­re or ex­tract stuck ca­ses from cham­bers. Sor­ting out a bad­ly fee­ding rifle is all in a day’s work for a com­pe­tent guns­mith but the­re is sim­ply no ex­cu­se for am­mu­ni­ti­on lo­a­ded to ex­ces­si­ve pres­su­re le­vels. Trying to de­al with stuck ca­ses w­hen a buf­fa­lo or e­lep­hant char­ges, is not re­com­men­ded. My ad­vi­ce is to lo­ad your am­mo with e­a­sy ex­tracti­on pri­ma­ri­ly in mind. Dan­ge­rous ga­me hun­ting in A­fri­ca of­ten ta­kes pla­ce in very hot cli­ma­tes and am­mu­ni­ti­on lo­a­ded to max­i­mum pres­su­re le­vels is the­re­fo­re just a­not­her po­ten­ti­al li­a­bi­li­ty.

Al­so, a big part of the fun in­he­rent to the purs­uit of dan­ge­rous ga­me is get­ting as c­lo­se as pos­si­ble be­fo­re pul­ling the trig­ger. The­re is thus no need trying to turn your .375 or .458 in­to a flat-shoo­t­er inste­ad of a clo­se­ran­ge, fig­ht-stop­per. Do the rig­ht thing and keep cham­ber pres­su­res well within re­a­son to en­s­u­re pro­per functi­o­ning.

Whi­le the ma­jo­ri­ty of us use bolt-acti­on rifles, a fair num­ber of hun­ters re­ly on dou­bles. Alt­hough re­lo­a­ding for dou­ble rifles and vin­ta­ge on­es es­pe­ci­al­ly, can so­meti­mes be a black art that re­qui­res a com­bi­na­ti­on of wis­dom, pa­tien­ce and luck, the ru­les re­gar­ding hand­lo­a­ding are es­sen­ti­al­ly the sa­me as w­hen lo­a­ding for a bolt-acti­on or single-shot rifle – with one or two no­ta­ble ex­cep­ti­ons. Fir­st­ly, a dou­ble’s acti­on lacks the bol­tacti­on’s cam­ming po­wer and the single-shot fal­ling-block’s bru­te strength. Dou­bles re­ly to a very lar­ge ex­tent on am­mu­ni­ti­on lo­a­ded to mo­dest pres­su­re le­vels for p­ri­ma­ry ex­tracti­on and re­gu­la­ti­on and a dou­ble rifle, ge­ne­ral­ly spea­king, does not re­spond well to dif­fe­rent ty­pes of am­mu­ni­ti­on or bul­lets of dif­fe­rent weig­ht. It is the­re­fo­re es­sen­ti­al for the hand­lo­a­der to du­pli­ca­te the muz­z­le velo­ci­ty and pres­su­re le­vel of the am­mu­ni­ti­on that the dou­ble rifle in que­s­ti­on was re­gu­la­ted with (“re­gu­la­ti­on” in this con­text re­fers to the pro­cess w­he­re­by the two bar­rels we­re fit­ted to­get­her by the ma­nu­fac­tu­rer to pro­du­ce accep­ta­ble accu­ra­cy at a gi­ven dis­tan­ce).

To add to the mix, most vin­ta­ge dou­bles we­re re­gu­la­ted du­ring ti­mes go­ne by with B­ri­tish-ma­de Kyn­och am­mu­ni­ti­on that was lo­a­ded with cor­di­te, a very bul­ky pro­pel­lant that is no lon­ger a­vai­la­ble. In the roomy ca­ses of most of the Nitro-Ex­press car­trid­ges it can so­meti­mes be dif­fi­cult to re­pli­ca­te the car­trid­ge’s o­ri­gi­nal bal­lis­ti­cs with mo­dern pro­pel­lants and the use of fil­ler ma­te­ri­al (wads of fo­am or Da­cron) to ta­ke up emp­ty spa­ce, is of­ten cal­led for.

In the ca­se of a dou­ble rifle of mo­dern ma­nu­fac­tu­re, it will most li­ke­ly ha­ve been re­gu­la­ted at the fac­to­ry with am­mu­ni­ti­on by Hor­na­dy, Fe­de­ral or one of the ot­her ma­nu­fac­tu­rers tur­ning out am­mu­ni­ti­on for the big dou­bles. The use of mo­dern pro­pel­lants gre­at­ly e­a­ses any po­ten­ti­al re­lo­a­ding pains and it was re­la­ti­ve­ly e­a­sy for me to find accu­ra­te lo­ads for the mo­dern dou­ble rifles I ha­ve wor­ked with so far.


Af­ter the am­mu­ni­ti­on has been as­sem­bled, I do a few final checks to en­s­u­re that no hiccups will occur. The first is a tho­rough vi­su­al in­specti­on of e­very in­di­vi­du­al car­trid­ge for any cracks, dents or burrs. Ob­vi­ous­ly, any de­fect au­to­ma­ti­cal­ly re­le­ga­tes that par­ti­cu­lar car­trid­ge to the shoot­ing ran­ge w­he­re a mi­sfeed or jam is a me­re in­con­ve­nien­ce and not a po­ten­ti­al di­sas­ter. Se­cond­ly, I cy­cle e­ach and e­very car­trid­ge I in­tend to ta­ke al­ong through my rifle to en­s­u­re that they all feed and cham­ber per­fect­ly (with a dou­ble, drop­ping the car­trid­ges in­to the cham­bers and clo­sing the acti­on will suf­fi­ce). This is a po­ten­ti­al­ly dan­ge­rous practi­se so the sa­fe­ty ca­tch be­t­ween your e­ars must be firm­ly in the “on” po­si­ti­on be­fo­re you start cy­cling the car­trid­ges.

From per­so­nal ex­pe­rien­ce I can at­test that a .300 Mag­num ma­kes a tre­men­dous a­mount of noi­se w­hen fi­red in a small room, and that a bul­let ma­kes a fai­r­ly lar­ge ho­le in a con­cre­te floor. The­re­fo­re, per­form this sim­ple yet vi­tal test w­he­re it is sa­fe to do so, such as on the shoot­ing ran­ge with the rifle poin­ted in a sa­fe di­recti­on.

With a bit of pro­per plan­ning and pre­pa­ra­ti­on, lo­a­ding your own am­mu­ni­ti­on for your dan­ge­rous ga­me hunt is not on­ly a very re­war­ding and sa­tisfying ex­pe­rien­ce but adds spi­ce to the hunt it­self. I can highly re­com­mend it!

A­not­her il­lus­tra­ti­on of why good bul­lets, ca­pa­ble of ex­cel­lent pe­ne­tra­ti­on, are an ab­so­lu­te ne­ces­si­ty for dan­ge­rous ga­me. He­re, Zim­bab­we­an pro­fes­si­o­nal hun­ter Bar­ry S­ty­le is su­per­vi­sing the skin­ning and slaug­h­te­ring of a buf­fa­lo. No­te the a­ni­mal’s...

This pho­to am­ply il­lus­tra­tes why pro­per functi­on AND good am­mu­ni­ti­on are two of the pri­me in­gre­dients of a dan­ge­rous­ga­me rifle. This Zim­bab­we­an buf­fa­lo bull was u­nim­pres­sed with a per­fect bro­ad­s­i­de he­art/lung shot from a .375 H&H (300gr S­wift A-Fra­me)...

Two ex­pan­ded North Fork Cu­pNo­se so­lids. Both we­re re­co­ve­r­ed from buf­fa­lo. On the left is a 400gr .416 fi­red from a .416 Rig­by and on the rig­ht a 500gr .458 fi­red from a .450 NE. The Cup-No­se is ty­pi­cal of the la­test ge­ne­ra­ti­on of bul­lets me­ant for...

A se­lecti­on of so­me of the dan­ge­rous ga­me bul­lets a­vai­la­ble to hand­lo­a­ders: (L to R) 400gr .416 North Fork Cup-No­se; 300gr .375 Wood­leigh FMJ; 300gr .375 S­wift A-Fra­me; 300gr Wood­leigh He­a­vy Du­ty soft-no­se and las­t­ly a 300gr Wood­leigh Hyd­ro. The...

A 400gr, .416 North Fork Cup-No­se bul­let (left) flan­ked by a 300gr .375 Wood­leigh Hyd­ro so­lid. No­te the Wood­leigh’s plas­tic no­se cup (re­mo­ved) to aid fee­ding in ma­ga­zi­ne rifles.

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